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Metro Bancorp Inc (METR), Casella Waste Systems Inc. (CWST): Portolan Capital Management and PL Capital Are Active in These Companies

George McCabe’s Portolan Capital Management and Richard Lashley and John Palmer’s PL Capital are in the spotlight today. Portolan Capital Management made it to the center of attention because of the huge increase in its exposure to Casella Waste Systems Inc. (NASDAQ:CWST), from 139,738 shares of Common Stock reported by the end of the second quarter of the year, to 2.04 million shares, which currently account for almost 5.2% of the company’s outstanding stock. PL Capital, for its part, disclosed no changes in its stake in Metro Bancorp Inc (NASDAQ:METR) (1.24 million shares of Common Stock, which represent 8.8% of the company’s shares outstanding), but stated its intentions to nominate Richard J. Lashley and William A. Houlihan for election as Board Directors of the company.


According to the most recent 13D filing, on October 20, 2014, Mr. Palmer submitted notice to the Company of his intent to nominate Richard J. Lashley and William A. Houlihan for election as directors of Metro Bancorp Inc (NASDAQ:METR), a $318 million market cap bank holding company of which the fund owns 1.24 million shares of Common Stock. These shares were acquired at an aggregate cost of $20.37 million, and represent 8.8% of the company’s shares outstanding.

On October 14 Metro Bancorp Inc (NASDAQ:METR) issued a press release summarizing several corporate issues, including the appointment of three additional directors and a decision to remain as an independent company utilizing its existing strategic plan and business model.  However, in a conversation between PL Capital principals Richard Lashley and John Palmer and Metro Bancorp’s CEO Gary Nalbandian and CFO Mark Zody, the PL Capital representatives expressed their (1) disappointment with the company’s management team and board “for not giving PL Capital, or apparently any other shareholder, an opportunity to suggest qualified board nominees before three new directors were added, (2) [their disagreement] with the Company’s decision to remain independent and continue with the same business model” (SEC). In addition, Mr. Palmer sent a letter to the companu’s Corporate Secretary, Mr. Peter J. Ressler, demanding certain books and records, accompanied by shareholder lists.

Other major institutional investors betting on Metro Bancorp Inc (NASDAQ:METR) are Matthew Lindenbaum’s Basswood Capital and Jim Simons’ Renaissance Technologies. Basswood Capital last disclosed ownership of 1.38 million shares, while Renaissance Technologies boosted its exposure to the company by 32% over the second quarter of the year, and now owns more than 83,000 shares.

On the other hand, Portolan Capital Management disclosed a massive increase in its passive stake in Casella Waste Systems Inc. (NASDAQ:CWST), a $168.2 million market cap vertically integrated solid waste, recycling, and resource management services company. The fund had declared holding 139,738 shares by the end of the second quarter, but now owns 2.045 million of them.

Joel Ramin’s 12 West Capital Management is the largest hedge fund shareholder (amongst those we track), with 3.69 million shares, worth more than $18.5 million (as of the end of the second quarter of the year).

Disclosure: Javier Hasse holds no positions in any stocks or funds mentioned

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